In hindsight, she was able to piece together the events of the afternoon that lead up to the mess she found herself entangled in. Though her memory did not seem impaired, she still felt she’d missed some key instrument in the way things fell together.
Caroline remembered lunch at a seaside cafe, sitting at the window seats and watching the rain assault the ocean. She remembered the sweet taste of her crab cakes and the way his laugh seemed to disperse the ghosts of anyone else that may have existed inside of that restaurant from her vision. They had watched each other, sometimes through their reflections in the glass, sometimes unabashedly over their plates or the rim of their glasses. After lunch, he’d ordered a bottle of wine for them to share and as she sent another message to her secretary, he uncorked it and poured them each a glass. She had stopped wondering if she’d be making it in to work. They made eyes at each other across the table, clinking their glasses together every time they agreed about something. She couldn’t keep the thought of his gaze from her mind, she couldn’t ignore the way his beryl irises seemed to be drinking her in.
After they finished the bottle, to her surprise - she hadn’t noticed how many times he’d poured her a fresh glass until the bottle had been emptied - he led her outside as the storm finally broke and the clouds parted. They shed their shoes at the stairs and he hid her purse beneath the deck. The ocean-tinted air still smelled heavily of rain, and the wet sand felt nice between her toes. He took her hand and they walked in a comfortable silence for a long while. Something about wine had softened her senses and she got lost in the small details - the sound of seagulls, the strength of his fingers, the glint of sunlight catching on the waves. They had spent so much time talking without needing to force it that she was mildly surprised how easy it was to be silent with him. His presence did not make her feel pressured to interact, he seemed perfectly content to simply walk with her. Caroline wondered if this was what it was like to fall for someone. She’d loved Matt once, she thought, a long time ago but she was certain it had been love.
Klaus was different. Something at his center was not like any man she’d known. She’d caught tiny glimpses of it, hints at the secrets she’d detected so early on, but it didn’t seem like he was deliberately keeping things from her. Or at least, she had no way of knowing what kind of avoidance she should be looking for. He readily discussed his wealthy parents, his education, his desire to find a career he could enjoy for the rest of his life. Thus far he was a full-time student; he claimed a number of degrees already from various colleges and universities - Harvard, Brown, Princeton, Yale. He promised to show them to her if she’d like. He was quite the hobbyist despite his studies, spending immeasurable time painting and hiking and toying with his own personal scientific experiments.
It was just after three when they meandered back to the deck to retrieve their shoes, and as he ran in to fetch a towel to clean the sand from their feet, she checked her phone. Her secretary, Samantha, had responded.
What do you want me to tell your appointments?
Caroline made a face. She hadn’t really thought about it. Couldn’t she simply be busy? She answered, Tell them I’m home sick and reschedule for next week.
Klaus returned then, and dropped to his knees in front of her on the wooden steps as she tossed her phone to her purse. The towel was slightly damp but it was warm, and she just laughed when he began to wipe the sand from her toes. She’d never been around someone who was so comfortable touching her when they’d only known each other a day. In fact, she couldn’t remember a time when she’d let anyone touch her so freely.
He discarded the towel but his hands didn’t leave her; she could feel his fingertips pressing against her skin, his thumbs gently rubbing along her ankle bones in soothing motions. She was marveling at the attentive way he touched her, studying the angle of his nose and the curve of his lips. He looked up and their eyes locked. Caroline felt her breath evacuate her lungs instantly as her pulse skyrocketed.
What was he thinking?
Then he moved and his lips grazed hers, hesitantly at first, until she leaned closer and a switch flipped between them. Almost immediately, his hand shifted up to her neck, his fingers knotting in her hair as he deepened the kiss. His knee wedged between her calves as he shifted his weight to get closer, and her nerve endings caught fire. Without an ounce of inhibition, she kissed him back. Somehow, he got them both into a cab.